Germany defeated Portugal 2-1 this past Sunday in the U21 European Championships, by two goals to one, to lift the trophy for the third time in their history. It was another great display by the junior Die Mannschaft team who reached consecutive finals three iterations in a row, having won in 2017 against Spain, before falling in a rematch just two short years ago. In fact, Germany is only the second nation to have reached three straight finals since the competition began in 1978, with Italy having completed a hat-trick of wins from 1992 to 1996.
However, what is most disturbing about this victory is that it came without the contribution of any Borussia Dortmund players. Die Schwarzgelben are known for fielding some of the better youth team in the country, even when they are using many that appear for the first team. In fact, Borussia Dortmund II (U23 squad) just earned promotion by winning the Regionalliga Nord and are now headed to compete in the 3.Liga in Germany. Why is it that no BVB player was in the squad?
Had sixteen year old super striker Youssouffa Moukoko not been injured, he surely would have been on the German roster. The young German starlet was poised to even make an attempt to make the knockout rounds before the brass upstairs decided that his future was worth waiting for and the club made it clear he would not be allowed to participate. Moukoko has been earmarked as Germany’s answer to not having a true number 9 since the retirement of Miroslav Klose after the 2014 world cup triumph. However, it will still be a some time before the young man is ready for first team action for BVB, let alone Die Mannschaft. That said, it would have been great to see Moukoko test his skills against the best U21 players in Europe, even at his tender age. The 2019 tournament held in Italy only featured only one Borussia Dortmund player, Mahmoud Dahoud. While Dahoud was a starter throughout the tournament, it is highly discouraging that between two cycles only one BVB player featured for Germany. So why was no one else called up?
I am not 100% sure of the timing on when the age cycle starts for one of these tournaments, but Steffen Tigges and Richmond Tachie are both 22 years old and may have just missed the cut age-wise. Nevertheless, Tobias Raschl has been putting in quality performances in central midfield for Borussia Dortmund II and he just turned 21 years old, while Ansgar Knauff is still just a teenager and started a Champions League game in Manchester for the senior team. Questions could very well be raised about the exclusion of those two individuals as well as a few others. However, perhaps with Borussia Dortmund II being on the brink of promotion and having to quarantine late in the season, the German national team decided to let BVB players finish their club season strong. One can only speculate at this point as neither party has given an explanation or perhaps even been asked. So why does it matter?
The struggle between national team and club will create friction at times, but clubs generally want their International players starring for their country the majority of the time. At the lower level, international matches present more opportunities for younger players to showcase their skills against a variety of opponents at their age level. However, none of it should be more important than having a strong youth base from your own country. Borussia Dortmund are one of the top clubs in Europe, and are known for having high quality youth players playing at top levels. In fact, Dortmund should be leading the charge when it comes to young German players representing Die Mannschaft at several age levels. Unfortunately this just isn’t the case. While purchasing teenage stars abroad and giving them minutes to maximize profits is a shrewd move by the BVB board, it appears that the best young domestic talents are slipping away from a club that prides itself on development.
Keeping hold of talented young stars has been a struggle for Dortmund, with the likes of Ousmane Dembele and Christian Pulisic, among others, being sold to bigger clubs. If Dortmund are serious about dethroning Bayern Munich in the Bundesliga, they will need to keep hold of their stars a little longer. While this will never be an easy task for Dortmund, one could argue the best way to do it would be building a strong German base with which to work. Dortmund currently have some talented young players and will always be a force in Germany, but they do not possess the top German youth talent and that is the problem. While BVB cannot fill their ranks with all the best domestic youth talent, they should strive to be leading youth national teams for player representation. If Dortmund could have three of four key contributors at each youth team, it would give them a much better starting point for stocking their future senior teams with the talent to wrestle away the Meisterschale from down south. The Dortmund board is great at making deals and finding talent, but one can see where the club are falling short right in their own backyard.